I hold a universal notion that telling people what to do with their wealth is generally a bad idea. Most people don’t like to be told how to spend their money. After all, it’s theirs.
I also hold a universal notion that most people have a clear idea of how other people should deploy their wealth, but a much murkier view on how to use their own.
Fundamentally, there are only a few things you can do with wealth. You can collect it. You can spend it. You can give it away.
With that as a background, I would now like to proceed with violating my first universal notion while fully indulging my second universal notion.
Here’s my take on what to do with wealth: Do whatever you want with it, but don’t collect it.
Hear me out.
Wealth for its own sake should not be the goal. It should be enjoyed. Not necessarily lavishly, perhaps not even openly. But unleashing wealth’s potential is the only way to truly appreciate it.
Watching a number tick ever higher, at some point, is simply self-flattery. Sure, it feels good to have wealth. It can mean less worry and more freedom – freedom to do what you want, when you want, and with whom you want.
But deep down, if we are honest with ourselves, the emotional return on wealth diminishes as your wealth grows. At some point, it fails to make you any happier.
And that point on the wealth scale is lower than you probably think.
Once your basic needs will be reliably met for the rest of your life, the value of wealth begins to erode. It may be intriguing to watch it increase each year, but the appeal becomes less lasting as the number gets bigger.
At some point, once you have achieved a certain level of wealth, it’s amazing to see how fast it grows. You almost can’t stop it. You think back to when it was a struggle to make money, let alone keep some of it after expenses were paid. And yet now the money seems to roll in effortlessly. What used to take you years to save is earned in a matter of months.
I see it all the time. Call it good fortune. Call it hard work. Call it savvy investing. Whatever it is, it transformed your financial position. But a fixation on watching wealth continuously grow can be unhealthy.
That’s why I believe wealth should be used. It should be spent or given away – or some combination of the two.
We all like to point to others and say, “Look how much more they have than me.” We use that as a cover for hoarding our own wealth. But wealth isn’t a benchmarking tool. It should not be used to stratify our place in the world.
Rather than compare our lot in life to others, we should find a mirror and ask that person, “If not now, when?” Because there will never be a number that flips the switch for you. It is not as if the decision to use wealth becomes easier with $10 million compared to $5 million. Or $3 million rather than $1 million. It seems like that would be the case, but it’s not. It’s a mindset.
The thought of using your wealth can produce anxiety. It leaves you with less than you had the day before. But more money isn’t the answer.
If you can’t imagine spending all the wealth you have accumulated, start using it. Spoil yourself a bit. Give it to your kids or grandkids and see firsthand the good it does for them. Donate generously to your favorite charities and causes. The happiness produced by unleashing the power of your wealth is beyond compare.
In the end, striving for a tombstone that reads, “Here lies the richest person in the graveyard,” is a miserable goal.
Justin Lueger is President of Invisor Financial LLC, a registered investor adviser firm in the State of Kansas. All opinions expressed are his own and should not be viewed as individual advice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.